What All Parents and Teachers Should know about Sensory Processing Issues
This article provides helpful resources for Sensory Processing. Affiliate links are included for your convenience.
When I first meet with parents to talk about the concerns they have with their child, usually they come to me with an academic issue saying their child is doing poorly in school, they forget homework, they skip words and letters when they read, and they don’t retain the information they have learned. Most people would think it was a simple tutoring issue where we can simply “train” the child to perform better in the classroom, but most parents don’t usually recognize other signs in their child as a whole that could be preventing them from learning.
Now does this mean parents and teachers are ignoring their child’s issues or they don’t want to accept that their child or student has a disconnect in other areas that directly affect their academics? In some cases this may be true, but in most cases, parents don’t know what to look for or they are unfamiliar with terms like “sensory overload,” “sensory processing,” “auditory processing,” “executive functioning,” and “proprioception.”
All of this sounds like medical mumbo jumbo and could these issues even possibly be a real thing? In our experience, what we see with most of the children that come to our center is very real and it doesn’t just affect how they read or spell, but the brain as a whole. Their bodies and their learning capabilities are disconnected and in most cases, we have to work at the lower levels first before we can help them perform at higher levels (reading, writing spelling, and math). Some of the most common things we hear parents say is their child had a tough birth experience, they missed development milestones, they notice behavior issues at school, they hate loud noises, tags in their clothes or they suck on their shirts or chew on their pencils, and they often ask “huh” or “what” when they are asked to complete a task or chore. All of these are signs that point to why a child may struggle in school.
While intervention is available to help kids who are struggling with these issues, it may still be a difficult concept for parents to grasp and understand. Oftentimes when we see children who experience a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Auditory Processing Disorder or struggle with other issues that affect behavior and academics in the classroom, we find it hard to recommend good resources to parents because there aren’t many that easily explain what their child is going through.
Sensory Processing 101
After helping children now for more than 20 years, we now have another great resource available for parents and teachers. In all my years of tutoring, this is one of the most simplified explanations to help parents understand what is going on with their child or student without all the technical jargon that is more confusing than helpful. When I found out Sensory Processing 101 was being released by not only a team of successful Occupational Therapists from The Inspired Treehouse, but also a parent, Dayna Abraham, from Lemon Lime Adventures who has first-hand experience with a child who struggles with sensory issues, I wanted to know their experience and what worked for their kids.
Sensory Processing 101 provides a great overview of sensory issues and auditory issues in simple terms everyone can understand, even for those that have never heard of a Sensory Processing Disorder or Auditory Processing Disorder before. Because most parents and teachers don’t know how to help their kids and students, this book provides a great introduction, and what’s even better, activities to do in the home and classroom to help these kids cope with their surroundings for more effective learning. We often tell parents it is a team effort because we can’t be there 24 hours a day to help with intervention.
To give you a better idea of what it provides, I’ve highlighted some of my favorites for parents and teachers in this book.
I love that Sensory Processing 101 provides a breakdown in regular terms of what I look for in children the moment they walk through my door. Parents and teachers are usually not trained to understand many of these terms so I find that I usually get the “deer in the headlights” response from many people or they many not even believe me when I say it is a real issue. Sensory Processing 101 helps parents know and understand what we as professionals hear on a daily basis and it melts away a lot of the confusion. Here is a great example of a simple breakdown they provide that helps parents understand the senses and areas we target with our intervention:
- The auditory system – the sense of hearing
- The olfactory system – the sense of smell
- The oral sensory system – the sense of taste
- The vestibular system – how we sense where our bodies in space
- The proprioceptive system – our sense of the way our bodies move
- The tactile system – the sense of touch
- The visual systems – the sense of sight
As they go through each of these individually, the book helps parents and teachers recognize the signs and symptoms in their children and students. I remember having my first “ah ha” moment when all of this began making sense as I saw the signs in my own child and now I love watching parents and teachers faces light up when they experience their own moments of clarity with their child.
Myths and Misconceptions
As I watch and observe how parents and teachers interact with their children, I sometimes cringe when I hear them say, “it’s just a phase,” or “they will grow out of it.” While some behavior and learning issues are age appropriate, others are like red flashing lights that you would think parents and teachers would see as warning signs, but most often this is not the case.
Sensory Processing 101 has a great myths busting section about sensory issues, auditory issues and visual issues in children. They discuss important interventions, when to start questioning if your child’s behaviors are “normal,” and what signs to recognize when it is finally time to get them the help they need. If you begin to feel as lost and frustrated as I did when my child was young, it could be a sign your child is crying for help. Some of the signs they discuss in greater detail may be exactly what you are experiencing right now:
- Your child’s behaviors impact, impede, or greatly change routines
- Others constantly comment on your parenting, your child’s behaviors or a combination of the two
- No interventions, tricks, or books seem to be the answer
Once you finally begin to recognize and understand the signs and symptoms in your child, you can start using the activities in Sensory Processing 101 to target your child’s specific learning challenges.
The great part is you can easily do these at home or in your classroom and it’s what we as professionals do with our students on a daily basis. We have used several of their activities and recommendations over the past few months and we are seeing some great improvements.
Sensory Processing 101 explains exactly what activities help each area of your child’s learning development. Now, does this mean it has everything your child needs to be perfect in school and at home? Not quite. While there is a ton of great information and resources in this book, it is only the beginning and what’s wonderful about it is the authors recognize this too. There is not just one intervention that is successful for every child. Each child is different and may need a combination of activities to help them function. While your child may need lots of therapeutic activities, they may also need to make changes in their diet and have special classroom accommodations, which Sensory Processing 101 discusses. It’s all about knowing your child and recognizing what pieces your child needs to their puzzle.
Why Sensory Processing 101
Remember, our end goal is to help our children learn, succeed and reach their potential. Parents oftentimes have a hard time accepting what they see in their child because they don’t have a special diagnosis or they know their child is smart, but just can’t pinpoint where the disconnection lies. All of the children that walk through my door are incredibly smart and intelligent. We just have to find ways to close the gaps they are experiencing so the puzzle pieces fall into place and it gives them a greater chance to learn at a higher level. I only wish I had this same resource when my children were younger because so many of the answers were right here in this book. I’m just glad we finally have the right resources with the right intervention as I begin to see more and more children walk through my door every day that are struggling in school and at home.
Reaching your child’s goals is attainable and possible with the right tools and resources. We do this on a daily basis with the kids we see and Sensory Processing 101 is the perfect place to begin for getting help for your child. And, remember knowing is half the battle.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
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